The future of Tacoma's 'Freighthouse Square' is mostly for passengers

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SEATTLE — Despite a name reflecting its railroading past, the present and future of the venerable Freighthouse Square building in Tacoma lies much more on the passenger side of the business.

The former Milwaukee Road warehouse, built around 1910 and redeveloped decades later as a retailing center for small local shops, galleries and restaurants, already houses a station for Sound Transit’s Sounder commuter trains running between Seattle and Lakewood, Wash. It will eventually also be the new Tacoma stop for Amtrak’s Cascades service and the Coast Starlight, once the decision is made to restore service to the Point Defiance Bypass route.

The Tacoma segment of Sound Transit’s light-rail system passes by Freighthouse Square as well, and the regional transit agency is looking at tying that location into the light-rail route running south from Seattle to Tukwila, Sea-Tac Airport and Kent.

To do so, however, might require lopping off part of Freighthouse Square.

Sound Transit is currently floating proposals for routes and stations to fill in the gap between Federal Way and Tacoma. The broad proposal calls for two Tacoma stations, at Portland Avenue and near the Tacoma Dome. What hasn’t been established yet is the specific location of those stations or the specific track alignments to get there.

In Sound Transit’s latest briefing materials, the agency is looking at four different station locations in the Tacoma Dome neighborhood, including a recently added option that would place an elevated light-rail station close to the Sounder station at Freighthouse Square.

That station, the materials say, “would be located on the Freighthouse Square block, between the Sounder tracks and East 25th Street. … The current “Close to Sounder” station concept would demolish a portion of Freighthouse Square east of the Sounder concourse. In response to input expressed by the community and City Council, the design concept may support a building frontage on the street if possible based on design constraints, similar to the new Tacoma Amtrak Station.

“In addition, Sound Transit is exploring whether non-transit uses (such as dining and retail) could be allowed under the new station and guideway to integrate with the existing neighborhood. West of the new station, the design aims to retain the Sounder concourse, Amtrak station and western end of Freighthouse Square.”

Construction of the Federal Way-Tacoma segment is to begin in 2025, with service to be launched in 2030. Sound Transit has a series of public meetings to gather public comment scheduled for early December in Tacoma, Fife and Federal Way.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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